In America, we have been taught to never to give up. From Davey Crockett's last stand at the Alamo, to the special forces unit trapped in the urban jungle of Somalia's war-torn cities, now immortalized in the movie "Black Hawk Down", we don't quit. From Charles Linberg's gutsy crossing of the Atlantic, to the New York City fire fighters' courageous efforts to save victims after the 9/11 attack, we don't quit.
Here in the USA, we admire those who don't quit; who fight until the last round of ammo, who don't give up under any circumstances, even when facing death, these are our heroes. Whether it be baseball or bombs, Americans never surrender.
It's no wonder, then, that as Americans we have a problem internalizing the principle teaching of the Christian faith, which is the total surrender of ourselves to Christ.
It seems that our religion is in direct opposition to our social ideals and this causes great distress. On one hand the Bible teaches us to submit to God (James 4:7), but on the other we are continually reminded that in this society, only the strong survive, gotta be #1. In business, sports, or politics we applaud the survivor, the victor. Even if they have acted improperly, we still admire them if they withstand the protest over their actions, and carry on nevertheless.
Former President Bill Clinton
A prime example of this attitude about winners is former President, Bill Clinton, whose favorability ratings went up after it was proven that he had acted immorally, recklessly, and dishonestly. Many people admired him because he wouldn't quit or apologize for his bad behavior. At the time, it seemed like the nation was channeling its rebellious streak through him and thumbing its nose at the principles of law and propriety that rule over all working societies.
We don't like quitters. We don't like to submit. And, we will champion any scoundrel that vicariously lives out this rebellion on our part. We even have music that celebrates this spirit (i.e. Rock'nRoll/Outlaw Country).
This is the attitude that has been cultivated in the last century and it has worked in bringing the USA to Super-Power status in this world. The only problem here is that this type of conditioning makes it very hard to develop spiritually as Christians.
You see, the Christian religion is based on the concept of surrender. The word surrender means that one gives up in defeat. In war, one side realizes that it's going to lose and in order to save casualties, they admit defeat and give up their struggle. Nothing could be further from the American mindset and yet nothing comes closer to God's will for man than the concept of surrender to Him as Lord. For example:
1. Every day we struggle to make a living, provide a home, and build some kind of security for ourselves. We think about it, stress over it, overextend our time for it, and often neglect our health, families, and church life in order to win this daily battle. And yet, the Lord says to us in Matthew 6:25,
Do not be anxious for your life…
2. In our spiritual lives, we battle to be better, we fight to be free from sin, we worry about the world to come, and if we will ultimately make it to heaven. And yet, the Lord says in Matthew 11:28-29,
Come to me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble of heart; and you shall find rest for your souls.
3. In our service to the church we work hard to build our ministries, never quit on expanding and producing results, engage in conflict if someone threatens our position or plans. And yet, the Bible says in Philippians 2:6-7 that Jesus, even though,
…He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself taking the form of a bondservant.
We have difficulty internalizing these verses because they speak a language that is foreign to our ears, the language of surrender:
- Surrendering the responsibility for our care to God and trusting Him to provide at His level while we do His will in seeking the Kingdom at ours.
- Surrendering the task of making ourselves right before God and allowing the blood of Christ to be our only appeal for righteousness.
- Surrendering our bodies and talents to the Holy Spirit and waiting on His direction and power to build the Kingdom in preparation for the return of Christ.
We like to think in terms of success and that's not a bad thing. The problem with this type of thinking is that it interprets spiritual success in strictly worldly ways - bigger, better, higher, faster. But striving for success in the Kingdom of God means that we are in a process of continual surrender to God each day. Our spiritual goal is well described in the old hymn, "None of self and all of Thee" (Theodore Monod - 1875).
Jesus set the tone for our Christian walk when He made this statement:
…he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of life. He who has found his life shall lose it, and he who has lost it for My sake shall find it.
- Matthew 10:38-39
All of us who have begun the journey with Christ have begun a journey of surrender. We forget this at times as the world, together with its riches and cares, tempts us to take control again. But our "work," our "task" as disciples is to surrender every thought, every care, every thing to Christ day by day. Paul says it best in Romans 12:1, "…offer yourselves as living sacrifices."
For some, the journey has not yet begun. How fitting then is Jesus' command for those who would surrender to Him, to begin that journey by repenting of their sins and being buried in the waters of baptism (Acts 2:37-38).
Baptism, the first act of surrender in a journey that will see us surrender everything in this life to Christ and receive freely from Him everything in the life to come.